Life in the pandemic for me was really hard. I had a boyfriend —we’d been together about seven months— but I was living by myself. I didn’t want to not see my partner, and I was worried about living by myself in a pandemic. So we ended up moving in together, but with his parents.
I hadn’t lived with parents since I was 18, and I was 28 at the time. My relationship with my own parents was complicated. My parents divorced when I was very young and my dad really wasn’t part of my life until I got older.
During the pandemic, my partner’s father got very sick. He was diagnosed with cancer; he was going through treatment. Sickness in a pandemic is probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. We were both struggling.
Then, in fall 2020, his father passed away.
The whole trajectory of my life changed after that. We were going to get married, we were building a house together, but when his dad died, his mom fell apart too. They had been married 41 years and they did everything together, so really, a part of her died. And I had never experienced death before. I had never had anyone I knew well pass away.
My partner wasn’t dealing with any of it well. We were both trying to be people we couldn’t be after such a tragedy. Finally, in August of last year, we broke up.
Never before had my life come crashing down so explosively; every aspect of my life blew up. I had given up everything to be with this person. After our relationship ended, I didn’t even have a place to live. I didn’t have a lot of choices and I had to go somewhere.
I ended up moving back in with my parents.
My relationship with my dad and step-mom was okay, but moving in with them, I didn’t realise I still carried so much resentment. I had gotten really close with my ex’s dad, and I thought, “Oh, this is a bit of an issue for me. I really wanted a dad like his.”
When I moved back in with my parents, I got to understand my dad better. I got to see a different side of him, a softer side.
When I was younger, I always felt like I was on the outside. My dad’s relationship with me and his relationship with his ‘new family’ were different —they were what he wanted; he had a son. Some of those things translate into our relationships, but after moving back in with my parents, I realised my dad never did any of it to make me feel like I was worth less. It was that I felt like I was worth less.
My dad is just who he is. He has a hard time connecting with people. He doesn’t know how to talk to his thirty-year-old daughter.
I had left when I was 18. I was a typical 18-year-old; I thought I knew everything. We’ve both grown since then. My dad has mellowed out, and so have I. Honestly, it was really wholesome for me to get to see this different side of him, to see that he can be there for me.
Them showing up for me, it was something I hadn’t felt in a really long time.
When you realize your parents are always going to try to do the right thing for you when you need them, it totally changes your perspective. I was like, “Oh, this is why we have parents.”
It sucked getting my heart shattered, but moving back in with my parents was probably the best thing I could have done. It gave me a chance to heal some of that childhood trauma I still carried around. I got to heal my wounds in my own time. I feel like I can finally close the door on that part of my life and just be.
I actually moved out in early January; I bought my own place. They helped me find it, they were there to support me. Moving out was a slow transition because I was like “Oh my god, I think I like living with my parents!” Which is something I never thought I would say.
I live in Toronto now; they live in Cobourg. My brother lives on his own. I thought, “We need contact. Why don’t we rotate who hosts dinner, once a month?”
I didn’t want to lose all that progress we made with our relationships. I’ve made the conscious effort to continue to connect with them, to invite them into my space, so as not to lose what we’ve built.
I believe everything happens for a reason. The universe knew I needed them and brought us back together. The pandemic taught me how to listen better, to live life with care.
(Interviewed and written by Eugénie Szwalek; photo by Nolan Brinson)